Backyard prairie Part 2: The plot thickens…


A visitor to my native plant garden

I’m not sure how most people would feel about receiving 3-cubic yards of dirt for their birthday, but when the dump truck rolled up in front of my house last May, I was like a kid with their own cookie cake. As soon as the dust settled on our driveway (the only decent place to lay a head-high pile of dirt!) I was in attack mode with a shovel in one hand and a rake in the other. My husband, who purchased the whopping $150 mound of soil from Living Earth as my birthday gift, was watching me out of the window with a huge grin on his face.  “That will keep her busy,” I think I heard him say as he retreated to the couch for what he hoped would be a blissful summer of watching sports.

I have to sheepishly admit that the construction of a prairie was not the principle reason for the dirt. We had bought the house only a year before, and I was finally warming up to the idea that it was truly “ours.” My main goal that summer was to rip out the nandina, replace it with natives, and to beef up my vegetable garden. I managed to carry out these tasks in about a week’s time, and hardly a dent could be seen in the mound of dirt in the driveway. Apparently, my rough estimation about how much soil I needed was a bit off (okay, so it was really off). I really wanted to get my car back in the garage, so I was going to have to get creative with that gargantuan pile of soil.

I started a mad garden bed building frenzy! But even two water troughs, a dozen giant pots, and several new beds later, I still had a non-passable driveway. It finally dawned on me that everything that I had constructed was in little structured squares and circles around the house. Was this really how I was going to encourage more nature to cohabitate with us around our inner-city home? As I contemplated this, and gazed out over the vast, boring expanse of lawn grass in the backyard, it hit me… why not something out there? Something wild? Something unruly? Something… like a … prairie!!

I purchased an inexpensive roll of Blue Hawk landscaping edging from Lowe’s and made the biggest oval I could. The remaining 70 or so red wagon trips of soil (yes, I was borrowing a Radio Flyer from my neighbors to move the dirt around) went out into this burgeoning, soon-to-be wild space in the yard. Though I have been told that heat killing the grass is the best way to go (using plexi glass or a similar material left out in the sun), I was in a rush, and decided to risk it by just laying the soil directly on the ground. The plot ended up being about 14 ft X 7ft; big enough to be worth the effort, but small enough for me to pull out the occasional grass runner (well, that is the hope).



The great backyard prairie experiment! July 2015

It was July by the time I got everything moved. July was hot. And, as it turned out last year, very wet.  I decided to hold off on planting anything, and instead covered the plot with a bright blue tarp to ward off any adventurous grass runners. Between the red wagon and now the tarp “garden” in our backyard, my neighbors have most likely written me off as nuts. But hey, someone has to keep this place interesting!

For my next blog: Got soil, now what? To seed or not to seed? Stay tuned for the next phase of my giant, backyard experiment.

4 comments on “Backyard prairie Part 2: The plot thickens…

  1. Hi Wallace! Thanks for the ID. I love those little skippers. Thanks for the seeding advice as well. I actually did seed with the Butterfly Retreat in November and it looks like I have a lot of plants coming up! I’ll be covering this in my next post. Take care!


  2. I believe the butterfly is a Fiery Skipper. I would seed but quickly. Use Native American Seed’s Bee Happy or Butterfly Retreat mix.


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